Three arrested over Turkish pilot kidnapping in Lebanon
The Internal Security Forces Information Branch arrested earlier this week three suspects over the kidnapping of two Turkish Airlines pilots, the National News Agency reported Saturday.
The suspects, according to the state-news agency, were arrested Thursday at the Cocody Bridge, where Turkish Airlines pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca were kidnapped at gunpoint as the two were making their way to a Beirut hotel. The two were snatched just after leaving the airport.
The NNA report did not reveal the identity of the three suspects.
The state-run agency said the Information Brach is collecting evidence in the case and said the suspects were interrogated before being referred to the Mount Lebanon General Prosecutor.
The case of the Turkish pilots has become linked to demands for the release of nine Lebanese hostages in Syria. In May 2012, Syrian rebels abducted 11 Lebanese Shiites in Allepo’s Azaz. The Lebanese had been on a pilgrimage to the Imam al-Reda shrine in Iran. Only two of the kidnapped have been release.
Shortly after the incident at the airport on Aug. 9, a group calling itself Zuwwar al-Imam Ali al-Reda – “visitors to al-Imam Ali al-Reda” claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the two Turks and demanded the release of the nine Lebanese in Syria.
Earlier this week, authorities summoned four people over links to the abduction of Akpinar and Agca.
The detainees are all from the Saleh family, all relatives of one of the hostages in Syria called Jameel Saleh.
The relatives of the pilgrims insist Turkey help in the release their loved ones in Syria. They have held repeated sit-ins and protests outside Turkish interests in the country, including Ankara’s cultural center and the offices of Turkish Airlines in Beirut.
The relatives staged over the weekend a sit-in near General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces in Ashrafieh to protest the “random” arrests of their relatives.
Amid a heavy security deployment, the relatives accused the police of disseminating false information about the case.
Daniel Shoaib, the brother of one of the hostages, Abbas Shoaib, said the Information Branch was providing media outlets with false reports blaming the relatives for the abduction of the Turks.
“The sit-in aims at protesting the random arrests by the Information Branch of our relatives through false accusations that the relatives of the hostages are behind the abduction of the Turkish pilots,” Daniel Shoaib said.
He said that three men had been arrested for their alleged involvement in the abduction of the pilots on the basis of “void accusations.”